AMC's Immortalized may be the most bizarre new show on TV, and Acataphasia Grey may be the strangest and most fascinating artist in Tacoma. Put them together and you've got a half hour of televised art that Tacomans should not miss.
Acataphasia, who goes by "Cat," is a taxidermy artist. She sees what others may call grotesque - roadkill, for instance, and strange hybrid creates - as beautiful. Tacoma's art audience was first introduced to Grey when she did an installation in an empty building in Opera Alley called "Tea for Short Expectations." Seen through peepholes in the window were reworked taxidermy animals not found in nature, and stuffed animals with more than the normal number of eyes and limbs. "I created this installation so that you can see one of the secret places where mutant animals meet to drink tea, or wine, or whatever it is that mutant animals drink," Grey said.
She describes Immortalized as being like Iron Chef but with taxidermy instead of cooking. It's an unscripted reality show. Each episode features an Immortalizer (a traditional taxidermist) facing off against a Challenger (a non-traditional or "rogue" taxidermy artist). Grey will, of course, be the challenger. Her episode airs Thursday, March 7 at 10 p.m. Pacific time.
Each contestant is given an assignment and a theme, and about five weeks to go away and create their rogue creature. The judges include Paul Rhymer, the head taxidermist from the SmithsonianNational Museum of Natural History; a woman artist from L.A. who creates gallery artworks involving dead canaries; and a stand-up comedian.
Grey says she can't divulge what the assignment was. We'll have to tune in to see what kind of weird or provocative creature she may create. She was, however, allowed to tell us what the theme was: "Your Worst Nightmare." She said that when she heard the theme she was waiting for someone to step out with a gun.
The production company "started hearing about road taxidermy" in late 2010, Grey explained, and went online and found her website http://www.morbidtendencies.com and contacted her. She didn't think it was for real at first. She says she often gets calls from independent film producers wanting her to make some kind of stuffed animal, and even though she goes ahead and makes them the films never get made. "I almost crawled under the couch when I Googled them and found out it was a real network show."
Taxidermists can buy forms for different kinds of animals. Upon these forms they build the animals using skins of dead animals. She uses roadkill. "I don't think it's a good idea to kill something just to use the skin," she says. She loves animals, all kinds of animals dead or alive, and thinks they are beautiful. All her friends know to text her with roadkill locations, ask before throwing out a perfectly good rat or mouse, and they often bring her their pets when they die.
She was given the assignment for the Immortalized segment in mid-September, but she lost the blank animal form she was going to use, and by the time she got it back she had only a week left to complete it.
I highly recommend visiting Acataphasia Grey's website before watching the show in order to get a bit of an idea what to expect and see why she has been called "The Queen of Morbid Chic." And then mark your calendars for March 7 at 10 p.m. to see her challenge an Immortalizer.